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We Need More Than Prayers
By: Temitope Ogedengbe / Tosan Esisi  
 Published  June 15th, 2012

We should start by stating that this is not politically motivated. It is not meant to apportion blame, or cause embarrassment to the Nigerian Government or the Aviation Authorities. It is not yet another attack on (the admittedly easy targets of) our leaders, and the people who have been charged with the responsibility of safeguarding our lives, resources and critical infrastructure. The many problems we suffer as a nation are well documented, and the perpetual finger pointing has not gotten us very far. This is an attempt to make a connection with that human part of us that refuses to leave things to chance, or fate. That part of us that chooses to take our destiny in our hands, accepts constructive criticism, and uses it as a way to improve. The intention is to show that we do have the information and the resources to prevent the reoccurrence of plane crashes that have befallen the Nation over the past decades. It serves to reassure us that we are not helpless, but also that while seeking the grace of the Most High, responsible persons must take action to prevent recurring oversights which result in accidents that claim precious lives.

Below are some excerpts from the investigation reports that are posted on the accidents and investigations bureau website (http://www.aib.gov.ng/reports_%20publications.htm). It is by no means an exhaustive review. However, by taking a look at some of the incidents at the Port-Harcourt International Airport, it simply seeks to underline that by learning from the past, we can prevent future disasters. If the recommendations given over 17 years before the Sosoliso crash in Port-Harcourt had been heeded, maybe the 108 lives lost (most of which where children returning for vacation) in that crash could have been averted - and their families and friends, and indeed the entire nation could have been spared these terrible losses.

The Dana Airline incident of June 3, 2012 may indeed turn out to be as a result of a series of unpreventable, unfortunate events. Experience (as highlighted from the excerpts below, and from emerging news) suggests that this may not be the case. The President and the Minister of Aviation have both assured that a full scale investigation will be carried out and a report prepared as quickly as possible. The evidence below tells us that it is not enough to generate reports, lessons should be learnt, and recommendations implemented without delay.

 

The Excerpts:

1. Report no CIA129: Nigeria Airways Airbus A-310 (September 8, 1987) -  Flight landing at Port Harcourt International Airport: No Fatalities

From Section 1.12: Wreckage and Impact Information:

The trench alongside runway 21 did the most devastating impacts to the aircraft. The accident became more disastrous when the Left main gear first ran into the ditch and fractured the strut. The nose gear also broke off. Port side engine impacted with the ground, crushing the fan-blade shroud and eventually the High Pressure compressor chamber. Engine number one suffered an irreparable damage. The airplane came to rest 640 metres after initial touchdown, with its left wing in contact with ground because the left gear had been completely severed off earlier in the disastrous landing roll. (Please see attached plate Nos. 2- 5) Along the wreckage trail, (appendix 1) are engine intake cowl, fan blades, compressor blades, thrust reverser parts, left main gear struts, wheels and brake assembly, Nose gear wheel assembly, brake line hoses, and engine acoustic linings. If the trench had not been there, it could just have been a case of an aircraft running off the runway and getting stuck in the mud or better than that.

 

2. Report no CIA-148 Okada Air BAC 1-11 7th Sept 1989 - Flight landing at Port Harcourt International Airport: No casualties

Synopsis:

The accident occurred at the touchdown zone of runway 21 when the aircraft at a point in the landing sequence bounced off the runway surface and landed again on the nose wheel. The nose wheel rim was crushed and the gear axle pulled through one of the wheel hubs thereby rendering the aeroplane directionality uncontrollable in_ its landing roll The aircraft veered off the runway onto the left shoulder, collided with bird dispersal automatic cannon gas cylinder before running into the trench which existed on the shoulder for about a year or two before being loosely refilled with soil. The impact with the trench knocker-off the right mean landing gear before the aircraft careered to a stop a few meters from the trench. The wreckage recovery exercise inflicted more damage then from the over-run itself. The report concludes that the incident occurred at touchdown point, when the aircraft impacted with the runway; but the trench on shoulder escalated the hard landing into an accident without injuries or death to any souls on board or on the ground.

 

Section 1.17 Additional Information:

The following three accidents had occurred at Port-Harcourt International Airport within the last 24 months:

(A) Accident to the Airbus A-310 registered 5N-AUG on the 8th September, 1987.

(B) Accident to the Boeing 737 registered 5N-ANW on the 15th October, 1988.

(C) Accident to this BAC 1-11 registered 5N-AOT on the 7th September, 1989.

 

In all the three accidents, those horrid trenches along runway 03121 escalated the hitherto landing incidents to total accidents. Out of the three accidents above only the Airbus was repairable. At each instance of the above accidents, reports have strongly recommended the trenches for permanent closure and that the runway shoulder should be brought back to its original status of "aircraft weight bearing specifications" as specified by ICAO Document 9167-AN/901 Part 1.

 

3. Report no CIA 424: Sosoliso Airline's DC-9-32  (Sat 10 Dec 2005) - Flight landing at Port Harcourt International Airport: 108 Fatalities

Section 1.12 Wreckage and impact Information:

The aircraft made impact with the grass strip between runway 21 and taxiway, 70m to the left of the runway edge and 540m from the runway threshold. At about 60m from the first impact, the aircraft rear fuselage impacted heavily with a concrete drainage culvert where the No 2 engine and the rear staircase of the aircraft were detached and lodged. The aircraft then disintegrated and caught fire along its path spanning over 790m. The cockpit section with the forward fuselage was found at about 330m from the rest of the wreckage on the taxiway, giving a total wreckage distance of 1 120m.

 

And in the same Sosoliso report, under section 2.1 is the following passage:

The available runway 21/03, which is 3000m long and 60m wide, is designed to accommodate jet planes for take offs and landings. The runway is equipped with edge lights, Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) and approach lights, which were serviceable but not available for use at the time of the accident. However the runway is not equipped with centerline lights. In practice at this airport, the airfield lightings, which are under the control of FAAN, are switched on at night (1800 hrs- 0600 hrs UTC) and off in the day (0600 hrs1800 hrs UTC) except on request by pilots and, or when controllers observe deteriorating trend in weather conditions. The reason for this practice is due to the unstable power supply from the National grids and lack of funds and resources to maintain the power from generating sets on a regular basis at the airport. Though there was a deteriorating trend in weather conditions when the aircraft was on final approach, the pilot neither requested for the airfield lightings nor did the Tower Controller request FAAN for the airfield lightings to be switched on when they observed the deteriorating trends in weather conditions.

 

Obviously a few questions come to mind from reading the above:

1.  Have the tranches at runway 21 been fixed? If yes, why so long? If not, can we do it before we have another accident and needless loss of lives?

2.  Were there other near misses between 1989 and 2005? Where are the reports?

3.  Where are the investigation reports of the other air crashes, near misses etc?

4.  What recommendations do they hold? What is being done with these recommendations? Who is accountable?

 

Enough is enough. We have what it takes to succeed as a nation. The question is do we want to?

 

To the Matankari’s, Ikpoki’s, Onyeyiri’s, Anyene’s, Ariyibi’s….and all the families of those on board; please accept our heartfelt condolences. We mourn with you.

May the souls of the dearly departed rest in peace. Amen.

Temitope Ogedengbe

Tosan Esisi


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